Barlow Holds The Line On Port City Taxes

OSWEGO – Port City residents will get some more tax relief in the coming year.

On Monday night, Mayor Billy Barlow presented his proposed 2020 city operating budget to the Common Council.

It’s fourth budget as mayor.

The mayor’s tentative spending plan for 2020 holds the line on taxes, calling for no increases to any taxes or fees.

It doesn’t use any of the city’s general fund to balance the budget, the mayor said.

“As you know, since taking office in January of 2016, we’ve implemented and followed a strategic return on investment driven strategy, a complete contradiction to the strategy used by our predecessors,” the mayor said Monday night.

Previously, City government felt it could “penny-pinch” its way to prosperity and worked to implement this strategy by neglecting city streets, sidewalks and infrastructure, he said, adding, they also didn’t properly maintain city buildings; irresponsibly ignored the need to replace or adequately repair city equipment; and didn’t wisely allocate resources in the areas that needed it most like neighborhoods and essential, daily city services that improve the quality of life for city residents.

Last year, Barlow and the Common Council enacted a 2.2% decrease in taxes for 2019, lowering the tax rate to $15.33 per $1,000 in assessed value.

In early 2019, the city lowered the annual sewer bill for city residents by $200.

The 2020 proposed budget is $45,210,488 – a decrease from the 2019 budget of $46,052,604.

“Our strategy simply suggests that if you invest money in the right areas and consider what the return of that investment may be; not just monetarily but also in the form improving the community and initiating real progression, over time the financial position of the city will improve and simultaneously the investments will help attract new residents and retain current residents,” the mayor said.

Highlights of Barlow’s 2020 proposed budget Include:

  • Continued reduction in OFD, OPD, DPW overtime
  • No tax or fee increases
  • Continued investment in City buildings and equipment
  • Restore city engineer position
  • New facility for Oswego YMCA Skatepark and Recreation Center
  • $40,000 investment for technology upgrades

“The proposed 2020 operating budget is consistent with our first three budgets by continuing our investment into city infrastructure and equipment, allocating the proper resources to revitalizing our downtown and neighborhoods, focusing on our parks and waterfront, and ensuring we deliver the quality services our residents expect with no increase in cost,” Barlow said. “Together, we’ve reduced city-wide overtime, cut costs, found efficiencies and improved services. I believe our forward progress reflects our strategic, return-on-investment driven strategy that we’ve adopted and will continue using. Moving forward, I know my proposed 2020 budget ensures continued growth and success for our community as we invest in the proper places and cut waste throughout city government.”

“Thanks to the continued commitment and hard work from all our city department heads and key personnel, we are able to control spending by finding efficiencies, streamlining processes, eliminating waste all while improving services,” he added. “We are also able to mitigate the always rising cost of doing business.”

Now, the council will debate whether to accept the mayor’s proposed budget or to amend it by resolution, Council President Rob Corradino said.

He scheduied three budget workshops, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, each at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

If all business can be taken care of in two nights, the third meeting would be canceled, he said.

Any amendments made by the council to increase or decrease appropriations will affect the proposed tax rate and if any increase in the tax levy equals 5% or more, the amended budget must be presented to a public referendum in November per local law.

“Should the amended budget be voted down in the November election, my proposed budget will become, by default, the 2020 operating budget,” Barlow said.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed budget on August 26.